Impeachment in Kennebunkport
By David Swanson
Reverend Jesse Jackson said something recently that I’d like you to repeat after me:
Far too many people have died.
It’s time they were tried.
It’s impeachment time.
I love coming to Maine, because the people here remember how democracy is supposed to work and what it takes to overthrow a King George.
I spoke on a national radio show yesterday about impeachment, and the host asked people to phone in and argue with me, but every single caller supported impeachment.
In October 2005, when King George’s poll ratings were higher and a dozen scandals had yet to break, AfterDowningStreet.org sponsored a poll question by Ipsos Public Affairs: 50% of Americans said “If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him.”
In January 2006, Zogby found that 52% of Americans said “If Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment.”
Right before the election last year, Newsweek conducted a poll that found that 51% of Americans simply wanted to impeach Bush. This past January 58% told Newsweek they wished Bush’s presidency were over.
We are a majority and we are here today to start acting like we know it.
We are here on a day when journalists from around the world are here, not so that we might embarrass our president, but in order to make clear to the world that he embarrasses us.
The world needs to know that Americans do not support the actions of King George. 21% of Russians have confidence in Bush’s international leadership, according to a survey conducted in 2006 by Pew, 32% of Japanese, 25% of Germans, 7% of Spaniards, 10% of Pakistanis, 3% of Turks. We are here to say to the people of the world: We know George W. Bush as well as you do, and we trust him even less. We are deeply sorry for the death and destruction he has caused, and we are working to impeach him and remove him from office.
And we are here to say to the people of Iraq and the members of the Iraqi Parliament, although you have no reason to trust us, we would like to make a deal with you. You hold off for six more months on passing Dick Cheney’s oil-stealing hydrocarbon law, and we will impeach Cheney and Bush and remove them from your lives as well as our own.
Speaking of Dick Cheney, we had some good news for a couple of days there last week: he was out of the executive branch of our government. Sadly, he’s back in. And, in fact, he may be too far in. Bruce Fein, who served as Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, published an article on Slate last week arguing for the impeachment of Cheney for some of the reasons that John Kaminski discussed, some of the reasons that are laid out at impeachcheney.org. But Fein added an additional complaint against both Cheney and Bush. The Constitution, he argued, forbids the president from turning the duties of the president over to the vice president. When this is done, Fein said, the people are unaware who is running their country.
Our job, my fellow citizens, is to start at the top by impeaching and removing from office Richard B. Cheney. This process has been begun by the most outspoken leader for justice in the United States Congress, Dennis Kucinich. As of Friday, 11 Congress Members support H Res 333, the resolution that you’ll find at impeachcheney.org Three of them serve on the House Judiciary Committee, and one of them on the Subcommittee on the Constitution to which the bill has been referred for action. None of them are from Maine. None of them are from Vermont. None of them are from New England. Congress Members from New England must choose now between the rule of law and the rule of Dick Cheney.
Morally it is an easy choice. And it is an easy choice politically, with Cheney about as popular as getting shot in the face. But Congress Members live inside a bubble and think in terms of their petty little advancements doled out by their party’s leadership. I can tell you what will open their eyes, though. If 20 constituents and one television camera go to a congress member’s district office and sit down and read the US Constitution aloud and refuse to leave until their representative finds the decency to stand against Dick Cheney, and if when those patriots are arrested 20 more take their place, and 20 more and 20 more… if we do this, we will have fired the shot heard round the world, we will have dumped the tea in the harbor, we will accept victory at Yorktown without ever lifting any weapon other than the tool provided to us by the revolutionaries of the 18th century, the tool without which we trade democracy for elected despotism, the tool so wisely designed for precisely this moment and others much less severe, the tool we call impeachment.
We must impeach Cheney and Bush, not because we dislike them personally. We must strive, in fact, not to dislike anyone personally. We must impeach them in order to prevent future administrations from doing the same and worse with the powers they have seized. Edmund Burke, who was leading an impeachment in England at the time our nation was formed, said “it is a contradiction in terms, it is blasphemy in religion, it is wickedness in politics, to say that any man can have arbitrary power.” But that is what Bush and Cheney have right now.
Their crimes stand open on the table before us. Their lies about Iraqi ties to al Qaeda are on videotape and in writing, and they continue to make them to this day. Their claims about Iraqi weapons have been shown in every detail to have been, not mistakes, but lies. Their threats to Iran are on videotape. Bush being warned about Katrina and claiming he was not are on videotape. Bush lying about illegal spying and later confessing to it are on videotape. A federal court has ruled that spying to be a felony. The Supreme Court has ruled Bush and Cheney’s system of detentions unconstitutional. Torture, openly advocated for by Bush and Cheney and their staffs, is documented by victims, witnesses, and public photographs. Torture was always illegal and has been repeatedly recriminalized under Bush and Cheney. Bush has reversed laws with signing statements. Those statements are posted on the White House website, and a GAO report found that with 30 percent of Bush’s signing statements in which he announces his right to break laws, he has in fact proceeded to break those laws. For these and many other offenses, no investigation is needed because no better evidence is even conceivable. And rather than taking three months, the impeachment of Cheney or Bush could be completed in a day.
But the investigations that Congress has pursued at its glacial pace over the past six months, while thousands upon thousands died, have produced another impeachable offense, the refusal to comply with subpoenas. That is what President Richard Nixon did; and his refusal to comply with subpoenas constituted the offense cited in one of the three Articles of Impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974 as warranting “impeachment and trial, and removal from office.”
Bush and Cheney are claiming executive privilege. Nixon also tried that one. It didn’t work then; and it won’t work now. Condoleezza Rice is claiming, with more frankness, that she’s just not inclined to comply. Even Nancy Pelosi ought to understand by now that the removal of the threat of impeachment is what empowers the White House to ignore subpoenas, and that the threat of impeaching the White House for its stonewalling would break down the wall even before we reached impeachment.
When Congress investigated and impeached Richard Nixon, it found the momentum to end a war, raise the minimum wage, and create the Endangered Species Act, one of the many laws the Bush-Cheney administration has effectively eliminated while our current Congress avoided its responsibility and concentrated on non-binding resolutions and unenforceable subpoenas. Dick Cheney’s code name is Angler, but he doesn’t kill fish one at a time off the coast of Maine. In fact, last year he intervened to violate the Endangered Species Act and divert water from a river in Oregon resulting in the death of 70,000 salmon and the ruin of an economy. But even that is small-time fish killing when compared to the policies of Cheney and Bush that are driving global warming forward. Scientists now fear that if our energy policies are not reversed soon, our grandchildren will know an ocean without a single fish. And it won’t be just fish dying. Already we lose 150,000 human beings to global warming each year, according to the World Health Organization. In fact I’m told that 20 feet of water would put Walker’s Point under.
So what does Bush do in the face of this growing catastrophe? He takes President Putin fishing. You know, there was a comedian who used to say that there is a fine line between fishing and standing by the edge of the water like an idiot. Presumably King George enjoys the sport of fishing because of the tradition of lying about the size of the fish you caught. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush on television why he had made so many false claims about Iraq’s weapons, Bush said he didn’t think it mattered, since Saddam Hussein would have been a threat if he had gotten all those weapons. When reporters asked Bush on November 8th why he had said before the election that he would be keeping Donald Rumsfeld on as Secretary of War, Bush replied that he had to lie so that nobody would report the truth. Bush clearly viewed these instances of lying as perfectly sensible and somewhat enjoyable. And he clearly knew what he was doing. He’s not an idiot.
Fortunately for all of us, neither is Putin. Bush withdrew from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and is now proposing to construct permanent military bases on the edge of Russia with the intended capability of taking out what’s left of Russian weapons following a first strike by the United States. Bush is justifying this by claiming that Iran might attack Europe, although Iran has no such capability and Europe has not asked to be defended against it. Bush has demonstrated his willingness to launch first strikes against other nations, and he is investing heavily in the development of weapons for space, as documented by Maine’s Bruce Gagnon at space4peace.org. If Putin falls for Bush’s false claims, I’ve got some low-lying coastal property to sell him.
Last night I interviewed a former member of U.S. military intelligence who finally decided to talk. Among other things, she described an incident just prior to the invasion of Iraq in which a fax came into her office claiming to provide information on the location of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The fax came from an Iraqi group opposed to Saddam Hussein and favoring an invasion. The fax contained types of information that required that it be translated and transmitted to President Bush within 15 minutes. But this woman had been eavesdropping on nongovernmental aid workers in Iraq who were panicked and trying to find safety before the bombs dropped. She focused on trying to protect them, and was reprimanded for the delay on translating the fax. She then challenged her superior on the credibility of the fax, and he told her that it was not her place or his to challenge such things.
This woman’s name is Adrienne Kinne, and her supervisor’s name was John Berry. He was promoted. She left, went back to school, and took a job at the Veterans Administration helping some of the victims of the fixing of intelligence that she had witnessed. And early this year she joined a tour of Vermont with Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols, Dan DeWalt, and veterans of the war, a tour promoting the passage of impeachment resolutions in Vermont towns, a tour that helped effect the passage of those resolutions in over 40 towns up and down the state. Kinne found the experience life-changing, and she’s now decided to tell everything she knows, regardless of what anyone does to her, and to encourage others still in the government to speak out and release documentation.
There’s another quote that’s often misattributed to Edmund Burke, along with Dante Alighieri and other notables that goes like this: The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in times of crisis remain neutral. This is a time of crisis. We are losing an Iraqi every 10 minutes, an American every 10 hours, and $2 billion every 10 days in a war that is the highest of crimes. The people killed, like Alex Arredondo, have loved-ones like Carlos and Melida. And the veterans who come back alive, come back in need of recovery. They also come back wiser. And it was the Veterans for Peace who last July rewrote the Declaration of Independence as a Declaration of Impeachment. Very little editing was required.
…The history of the present King (George)…is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny…To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
§ He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
§ He has…deprive(ed) us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury…transport(ed) us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
§ He is at this time transporting large Armies…to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
A (President) whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
We, therefore…do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People…solemnly publish and declare, That these…Free and Independent (People)…are Absolved from all Allegiance to the (Bush Administration), and that all political connection between them and (this Administration), is and ought to be totally dissolved…And for the support of this Declaration…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
We face an equally dangerous challenge today from another George who would be king; a George who fashions himself the sole “decider,” openly usurping the power of our elected representatives in Congress. From their graves, the framers of our precious Constitution summon us today and demand that we apply the orderly procedure mentioned six times in that Constitution—the procedure fashioned with such foresight for use precisely at this time in our history—IMPEACHMENT for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Benjamin Franklin warned us from the start, saying that the Framers of our Constitution had given us a Republic, “IF YOU CAN KEEP IT!”
Rest assured. WE WILL KEEP IT.