Are Peace and Impeachment Possible?

“Are Peace and Impeachment Possible? Strategies for Saving our Constitution, Economy, and Environment”
By David Swanson
Remarks delivered in Ojai, California, on April 22, 2008

I’m going to talk for a while and then take some questions, and maybe even some corrections, since unlike the Pope and George W. Bush I do make mistakes. Our president, as far as I know, has never admitted a mistake. And of this I am sure, I have never publicly done anything as brave as what members of IVAW do in admitting their mistaken roles in Bush’s crusade. Some of them have said that that has been harder than anything they did in Iraq, and I believe it. They deserve our gratitude and our support.

Now, the phrase “support the troops” has a bad name, since it has come to mean “insist on funding war crimes that the troops wish they could be done with.” But I want to propose a new initiative to support the troops. Let’s take the next little dollop of war funding in the pipeline, the $178 billion that Congress intends to vote on within the next month, and let’s give it to the troops now stationed in Iraq. Very roughly that will come out to $1 million per troop. Those troops that want to use some of that money to fund contractors, mercenaries, and war profiteers can give some or all of it back. Those troops that want to contribute to the general fund to extend the occupation can do so. And those troops that want to buy a plane ticket home can make that choice. This may sound crazy to some people, but what sounds crazy to me is sending young men and women to kill and die for greed and power and claiming that you’re doing it because you “support the troops.”

Happy Earth Day! Global Warming, according to the World Health Organization, already contributes to 150,000 deaths each year. Some of those deaths have been in New Orleans over the past two and a half years, and global warming has had a little bit of help. In fact there’s a nice video of George W. Bush being warned beforehand about Hurricane Katrina, and another nice video of Bush swearing he was not and couldn’t possibly have been expected to imagine what was coming. Today, half the people of New Orleans have not seen any real progress toward restoring their homes or compensating them for their loss. Even if you believed Bush’s lie that he had no warning, how can you defend the past two and a half years of failure, of intentional and racist failure? And how can we look at this one act alone and not impeach the president?

Bush is spending Earth Day in New Orleans, working with Canada and Mexico to use NAFTA as a tool to eliminate such troublesome laws as those that protect the environment. Can you imagine anything more arrogant? I don’t know… maybe if he… openly admitted to approving of torture or something like that? Next Saturday is the White House correspondents dinner. Maybe Bush will joke about hunting for Weapons of Mass Destruction in his office again.

Bush attended a church service last week, and his staff talked with the minister beforehand to make sure, not only that he wouldn’t touch on unpleasant topics, but that he would praise the president. In fact, I kid you not, maybe it was the Pope being in the country or something, but they asked the preacher to compare Bush to a saint. To his credit, the good minister agreed, but when he got up and gave his sermon, at the end he said, “We are honored to have been joined this week by our president. He is a dishonest, duplicitous, murderous criminal, responsible for the deaths of over a million Iraqis, not to mention the millions around the world who could have been saved with the trillions of dollars he has wasted on killing, torturing, and turning the world against us, but compared to Dick Cheney, he’s a saint.”

OK, that’s not really true, but how can we not start with the guy in charge, with the convener of the secret energy task force that established our energy and war policies behind closed doors? How can we not start with the man who told jokes about global warming at last week’s Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner? How can we not begin with the Vice President for torture, Dick Cheney? How can we not impeach Cheney first?

The words “global warming” should call to mind a different vice president than the one they usually do, because Dick Cheney more than any other individual can take credit for worsening the impact of global warming. And he jokes about it. And the members of the broadcast media laugh with him. Well, not WITH him. He doesn’t laugh. He just sort of breathes heavily.

But why does the media laugh? Maybe the impact of global warming is not felt in Disney Land. The Disney Corporation’s presidential primary debate last week was unable to squeeze a single question on global warming into a debate focused on fascistic questions about religion and flags. Yes, I said the F word. It’s hard to see fascism in a flag when it’s our flag. It’s hard to see fascism in religion when it’s our religion. Here we are in a town that used to have a German name and changed it as I understand around the time of World War I, but changed it to a name originating with the native people of our own country against whom we had committed genocide. We have stationed 1,000 U.S. military bases in other people’s countries around the globe in the name of spreading democracy. We are not a people much given to irony.

But occasionally we see through the fog of war. Someone recently told me that he was certain we would eventually have peace on earth, he just hoped humans would be around to enjoy it. There are two major threats to that possibility. One is nuclear war and the other is global warming. Remember when our nukes were supposedly intended purely for the purpose of destroying the Soviet Union several thousand times if it nuked us first? The Soviet Union has been gone for nearly two decades, and we have more nukes than ever, and we now threaten to use them first and to use them anywhere. U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, claims the ability to destroy any spot on the planet within 60 minutes, and does not strictly separate conventional from nuclear weapons in its planning. Happy Earth Day!

Mikhail Gorbachev tried to negotiate nuclear disarmament with Ronald Reagan, but Reagan wouldn’t do it without Star Wars, without his so-called “missile defense” system. That boondoggle is still around, although its ability to defend against an attack has never been demonstrated. Its usefulness in aggressive war is not in doubt, however. We’re now trying to impose new bases on a number of nations around the world as part of a so-called missile defense system, including the Czech Republic and Poland, the main result of which has been to enrage the people of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia.

At a House Oversight subcommittee hearing last week, Lisbeth Gronlund, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists said of missile defense: “The program offers no prospect of defending the United States from a real-world missile attack and undermines efforts to eliminate the real nuclear threats to the United States.”

Gorbachev last week made some perceptive comments as well, including these:

“[J]udging from the USA’s military budget, your nation seems to be at war with the world, and I sense that the American people don’t like this at all. The size of your weapons budget is larger than it was at the peak of the Cold War, and larger than all of the rest of the nuclear nations put together. Why do you continue to build these weapons? This is amazing to me!”

Our approach to nukes over the past several years has encouraged other nations (like Korea) to acquire them and assisted other nations (like India) in acquiring them. Nuclear weapons are proliferating when they should be reduced and eliminated, because we are violating the nonproliferation treaty and encouraging others to do so. But the fact remains that up until the moment some nut pushes the first button (why does a certain Senator from Arizona come to mind?) nuclear weapons can all be rounded up and destroyed and security restored to the earth.

That’s not necessarily true with global warming. There is such a thing as arriving too late. At some point it will no longer be possible to avoid spiraling destruction that builds on itself. Already we are losing ice that cannot be refrozen, species that cannot be re-evolved (or re-created or whatever it is Bush supporters believe happened when God made everything in the 1950s or whenever it was). Ecosystems are already gone forever. At some point soon it will be too late. Throwing away the past seven years strikes me as a more suicidal act than anything we did during the Cold War. Pretending the next nine months do not exist is part of that same suicidal behavior. The time to begin reversing our energy policies is now. The time to make that shift a focus of our national government is now. The time to admit that the next nine months exist and matter is now! The time to impeach Cheney and Bush is now!

There’s a parallel to the destruction of New Orleans in Iraq. Even if you believe it was justifiable to invade a foreign nation, even if you believe the documented lies were well-intended blunders, even if you suppose that Bush had no possible way of knowing the Iraqis would fight back (and you ignore the fact that he ended the careers of those, like General Shinseki and Larry Lindsey who warned him), how can you defend the past five years of taking a disaster and intentionally making it ever worse? How can we look at that one act alone and not impeach the president? This one act, the occupation of Iraq, more than all the others combined, has contributed to giving Bush and Cheney the all-time records for presidential and vice presidential unpopularity.

But of course there’s one thing in Washington that’s even more unpopular than Bush and Cheney. If the opposite of pro is con, then the opposite of progress is….

The occupation of Iraq does not belong exclusively to the White House. Congress has allowed it and funded it for over five years, and if WE don’t do something, by this time next month we’ll be able to say they’ve funded it for over SIX years.

Well, sure, you might say, Congress is responsible too, but everything is run by parties now, and the Republican party is to blame for everything. Except that the Senate was in the hands of the Democrats when it gave Bush and Cheney the green light to attack Iraq. And both the Senate and House have been in the hands of Democrats for the worst of the occupation, which has occurred since January 2007.

Well over a million Iraqis have died as a result of the occupation of Iraq, well over 4 million more have been made refugees, and Iraq has no more been reconstructed than New Orleans. Most of the money appropriated for reconstruction has been spent on killing instead. Is there anything more shameful than the bipartisan demand that the Iraqis start paying the bill for our destruction, occupation, and reconstruction of their country? That’s the tough talk coming out of the Democrats in Washington. I saw Hillary Clinton roundly booed for blaming the Iraqis at a conference in DC a year and a half ago, but that is the Democrats’ strategy today.

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?

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were pretty open in their testimony earlier this month, not to mention last September, about having no plan and predicting no success. And listen to these words:

“Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle….Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen. Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees….[O]ur efforts there were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East….[S]enior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect.”

I’ve just been reading excerpts from a paper just released by the National Defense University, which is the Pentagon’s premier educational institution. The New York Times this week published a shocking scoop of a story, reporting that retired generals who gab on television actually support the war machine. I’m shocked! Contrary to the New York Times’ spin, generals who have not just been fed the latest line from the Pentagon are NOT the ideal objective commentators. And, whether or not the Times ever breaks the story, we can be sure that the paper I just quoted from would not have been released without support from inside the Pentagon.

In last week’s Disney debate, Obama and Clinton were not asked about global warming or nuclear disarmament, but they WERE eventually asked about Iraq by debate moderators Pluto and Goofy. Specifically, they were asked whether they would dare to withdraw any troops from Iraq if military officials advised against it. Bush, of course, gets rid of anyone who won’t do exactly what Cheney says, but publicly he claims to be taking his orders from his generals. To their credit, both Obama and Clinton pointed out that we are supposed to have civilian control of the military. But they were not asked what I would have asked them, what many of you might have asked them. I would have asked them how in the world they can go on claiming to oppose the occupation of Iraq while funding it? Do they plan to vote no on the next $178 billion, and if so, is that just theatrics or will they lobby Harry Reid not to bring it up and lead a filibuster to block it?

The occupation has gone from bad to worse to a disaster of biblical proportions. We’ve driven far more people out of the Garden of Eden than God ever did. We’ve borrowed every dime to do so, and our grandchildren will have to pay China back so heavily that they’ll be lucky if they can shop at Wal-Mart, which will of course mean paying China back with interest plus some. Remember how horrible it was when the US death count reached 2,000 and then 3,000 and then 4,000? Well, the US death count since the Democrats took control is well over 1,000 and likely to far surpass 2,000 during the time frame they are about to fund, if we don’t stop them. The Iraqi death count is not only many times higher, it’s also rising more sharply. Our dramatic increase, of late, in the use of air power in Iraq is one reason that Iraqis’ deaths do not always parallel Americans’. The little reported air surge is one reason U.S. deaths in Iraq are not higher. Other reasons for the temporary lull in our import of flag-draped coffins in late 2007 included purchased cease-fires and ethnic segregation. This could not possibly have made for, and did not make for, a lasting peace.

Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and marines are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and/or from brain injuries from roadside bombs. Tens of thousands have more visible wounds. 4,039 in a recent count are dead, not counting those who return home and then kill themselves (officially 18 veterans per day). Of those 4,039, a full 3,900 have been killed since the Mission was Accomplished, 3,578 since Saddam Hussein was captured, 3,180 since power was transferred to the so-called Iraqi government, 2,602 since the Iraqis’ so-called election, and 1,200 or so since a so-called opposition party took control of the first branch of our government in Washington, D.C. Two other things that do not parallel each other are the violence in Iraq and the U.S. media coverage of it. In fact, as things have gotten progressively worse, the media coverage has dwindled away.

Luckily, our representatives in Congress and our candidates for president listen to us rather than to the media, and 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. Suddenly $102 billion is $178 billion, and no committee hearing is needed – they’ll rush it straight to the floor. Except that, unlike that loaves and fishes routine, somebody will have to pay for this – pay China for this money we’re borrowing – and that somebody will be our grandchildren.

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. (I thought about giving some of it to cable and network news corporations, but then I realized that the fiercest opponents of those companies give them hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising whenever we have an election, so I already contribute by supporting progressive groups.)

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!


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? Isn’t global warming a top issue for Americans even though unheard of in the media? 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.”

Any third party should consider that a ringing endorsement. A Democratic senator who wants to be president declares that the problem with the Democratic Party is that it has too many damn active supporters. You know what? Maybe it does. Maybe the third parties do too. Maybe the entire mad election disease should be contained, and citizens should put a little bit of focus on running the country in between elections. Maybe in the end, that would give us better candidates and elections too.

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.

I’m fond of the saying “Let’s save our pessimism for better times.”

I also read an important remark online recently that was attributed to I.F. Stone:

“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing – for the sheer fun and joy of it — to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.”

That means continuing 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.) It also means advancing the crucial work in high schools of counter-recruitment, at which activists in many school districts have been very successful. And it means recognizing but not succumbing to the triumph of what this nation’s founders called Factionalism.

Our Constitution does not mention political parties, and our founders feared their influence. Most congress members today have almost no concern for what powers the Congress maintains as against the White House, but have extreme concern for whether the next president will be a Democrat or a Republican. This mindset facilitates the transferring of still more power from the legislature to the now misnamed executive. This means that for peace or impeachment to happen requires the approval of the Democratic leadership and of Senator Obama. And that means that we need to 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.

If the Democrats fund more slaughter, they will probably also take another step that makes them look even weaker. They will actually legalize the occupation of Iraq. While the invasion was illegal under the UN Charter, while Bush misappropriated funds to begin it in secret, while Congress never properly declared war, while the war crimes have included the illegal targeting of civilians, journalists, ambulances, etc., and the use of illegal weapons of mass destruction, etc., the United Nations has given one level of legal cover to the occupation, and that legality expires on December 31st. Congress can allow a further level of illegality to be added and leverage it into an end to the occupation, and we can really party this New Year’s Eve like it’s 1999 and the nightmare is over. Or Congress can allow Bush and Maliki to negotiate an unconstitutional treaty to give new cover to the occupation, something Maliki may already have killed by allowing the Iraqi Parliament to reject it. Or, and this is the worst option so you can be pretty sure they’ll choose it, Congress can work to renew the UN fig leaf or provide a new one of its own. Democratic strategists will find this approach appealing and in accord with their double policy of doing everything people oppose in order to win an election in a way that allows them to avoid immediately doing anything that people want.

Of course, we can fantasize about how great Obama will be as president, and explain his lack of greatness now as necessary catering to the corporate media. Norman Solomon thinks Obama is secretly FDR and points out that FDR didn’t sound good in his first campaign. I’ll admit that gives me hope, but FDR’s policies evolved in response to activism, strikes, and people’s movements. FDR told A. Philip Randolph he’d support his requests if Randolph went out and organized a movement that made him do so. If we want Obama to be FDR, we’ll need to start now organizing the required activism. We don’t have time to waste volunteering for a campaign that is not yet taking winning positions. If possible, we will force Obama to take better positions prior to the election, which will help him win. If possible, and it is entirely possible, we will end the occupation funding this month, guaranteeing huge popular support or whoever in Congress helps bring the troops home alive.

But, I have to tell you, I place saving human lives ahead of any election, and I place saving our democratic republic ahead of any election. I think it’s more important that future presidents and vice presidents have to obey laws than who the next president is. And I think there is an urgent need to reestablish the rule of law as soon as possible.

Imagine if one of the Ojai City Council Members were discovered to be accepting bribes, handing out public dollars to his friends, and torturing children in the basement. Would an appropriate response be “How awful, but you know he’s retiring in another nine months and those children are used to being tortured by now anyway?” That response is not even imaginable.

But when the crime becomes larger and less intimate, when we begin discussing hundreds of thousands of murders and countless cases of torture carried out at a distance by loyal underlings, all of a sudden our conviction that accountability is called for becomes less absolute. Why, though, should the need for accountability shrink as the crime grows? This makes no sense to me and would have made none to the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and our poor battered Bill of Rights.

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. Without these protections we won’t get very far.

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 am sick 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.

And this notion that impeachment would turn Cheney and Bush into figures of sympathy? I don’t have words to express how insanely self-defeating and defensive that is. If Democrats could imagine playing offense, it would take them about 10 minutes to realize that impeachment hearings on torture and signing statements and refusal to comply with subpoenas and the rest of it 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”? That word may become as famous as Dick Cheney’s “So?” 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.

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. How can it ever be too late to establish that future presidents and vice presidents will be required to obey laws and the Constitution? Without impeachment, what is the best possible scenario? Presidents with complete integrity for a number of terms, and then a real dictator who chooses to seize on the Bush-Cheney precedents.

Besides, there is nothing for Congress to do other than impeachment. Ending the occupation requires NOT doing something. All other issues, including addressing global warming, are impossible. They can be engaged in for show, and they have been for the past year and a half. But 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.

Nixon’s impeachment took three months. Clinton’s impeachment and trial combined took four months. Cheney’s impeachment could take 10 minutes if desired. Just pick an indisputable offense such as refusal to comply with a subpoena, something the Judiciary Committee passed an article of impeachment for against Nixon. Or Cheney’s impeachment could take weeks or months if desired. Just beginning it would be a victory and would make an attack on Iran less likely.

Using impeachment to put the White House on the defensive might allow changes in other areas as well, including the economy and housing. 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.

According to a report from Oil Change International, projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends. In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy. Obama has committed to spending $150 billion over 10 years on green energy. We’ll spend that much on killing Iraqis in the next nine months.

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, 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.

We should thank Brad Sherman of California’s 27th district for his recent letter to Conyers urging an investigation of torture, and we should challenge Sherman to join his colleagues who are urging Conyers to open impeachment hearings.

We should support the campaign of Mary Pallant in California’s 24th district, a pro-impeachment Democrat challenging Elton Gallegly.

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 thank Henry Waxman for sending the White House so many thousands of challenging letters and make sure he knows that we know the White House has been laughing at him for a year and a half. He can support impeachment or continue spitting into the wind.

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

We should remember what Albert Camus said of a man who rolls a rock endlessly up a hill: One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

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