By David Swanson
This past Friday night and Saturday, Ann Wright and I spoke at four events in the Los Angeles area on the topics of peace and impeachment. I flew home, but Ann intended to keep going at the same pace for another week or more without ever leaving L.A. The people of Santa Barbara and Oxnard and Venice and Santa Monica turned out in large numbers on Friday and Saturday nights and even Saturday morning to talk about what they could do to end the occupation of Iraq and the illegitimate administration of Bush and Cheney. Young people turned out too and are creating their own events with Ann. Los Angeles even has a busy office known as the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center. If only this same energy really were national! At three events I asked rooms full of Californians whether they would risk jail by sitting in their congress members’ offices to impeach Bush and Cheney. Every time, 90 percent of the people present raised their hands. And when I asked whether they would submit to waterboarding if it rid our government of these criminals, 80 percent raised their hands. Now, THAT’s asking what you can do for your country.
This is roughly what I told all these beautiful Californians, whom I hope to join if they secede before Vermont does:
When the Nazis were tried, not every low-ranking grunt or good german was put on trial. Rather, those at the top were considered most responsible. When people are tried for the crimes of Bush and Cheney, it’s those at the lowest levels who take the fall. If you join the U.S. military as a public soldier or a mercenary, you may someday be prosecuted for having obeyed illegal orders. But those at the top are considered immune.
Rumsfeld may face prosecution if he travels too much. Gonzales may possibly someday face prosecution. And many of us will not rest until Bush and Cheney are behind bars. But Bush and Cheney consider themselves and their top collaborators above the law.
As you’ve heard, thanks to Senator Schumer and California’s own Senator Feinstein (whose husband is a war profiteer), the Senate is likely to approve as our top law enforcement official a man who refuses to call torture techniques torture because doing so might aid in the prosecution of torturers. Feinstein claims that Mukasey admits that the military cannot waterboard. But she avoids the fact that the CIA has been doing the waterboarding, and that Mukasey will not reject the practice. Feinstein then turns around and proposes banning waterboarding, as if it were legal. She adds that the Senate should question Mukasey about it… AFTER confirming him.
Bush was prepared to have no Attorney General if not Mukasey. And why not? Gonzales never exercised any independent thinking while holding that office. There was always something ludicrous about impeaching him. Having no Attorney General would be appropriate, I think, in a government in which we’ve gone for years without any people’s representatives in Congress.
This is the year of the living dead in Washington. And it will be two years if we don’t do something. The Democratic Congress took power in January with the intention of keeping Bush, Cheney, and the occupation of Iraq around for two years, so that they could run in the next elections against the same things they’d just been elected to deal with.
So, the Democrats faced a dilemma, How do you keep a war and a criminal administration around while appearing to oppose them for two years? You do it by introducing bills. And the fight for the doomed bills becomes an electoral campaign funded by taxpayers. Of course, you know from the start that with very few exceptions any decent bills, especially on Iraq, will be vetoed if not filibustered. But if you sell the idea hard enough that you simply must have a bill, then what you can do is watch good bills fail and then introduce bad bills and watch them be signed into law.
But we have actually known since last November that there would be only two useful things this Congress could do – although it could do lots of other things after doing these two – and neither one involves passing a bill.
The first thing is to announce that there will be no more bills brought to the floor to fund the occupation of Iraq. Ed Schultz on his radio show this week asked Harry Reid why he doesn’t just do that. Reid had no answer and sounded as if he’d never thought about the idea. He admitted that he could do it, but said he would not. Pelosi has, in her trademark phrase, said that the idea is “off the table.” But 41 senators could filibuster the funding, and Senator Boxer is the single most likely senator to find the nerve to do it. She is the only senator who has said she supports impeachment, and she was the only senator to challenge the Ohio election results.
Boxer and her colleagues can establish the model for ending the occupation funding by following Chris Dodd’s lead and filibustering a bill to legalize unconstitutional spying and grant immunity to violators of FISA and our fourth amendment.
In the House, 90 congress members have committed to voting No on funding bills that don’t end the occupation by January 2009. See http://afterdowningstreet.org/peacepledge
The funding to bring every soldier, sailor, marine, contractor, and mercenary home is pocket change to the Pentagon which routinely “misplaces” greater amounts of our hard-earned money. But if Bush wanted money to pay for the withdrawal, Congress could certainly give him that and nothing else. But to do that out of fear of the media would suggest an attitude in Congress not yet ready to take on the White House and its propaganda machine, a Congress like the one in which Pete Stark apologizes for saying a few true words. We’re going to need congress members to go grassroots and join us in challenging the military industrial media complex.
And I don’t think fear of the media is the largest force keeping Congress from acting. I think more important is congress members’ obedience to party leadership and that leadership’s cynical decision to keep the war going for electoral reasons that will probably fail on their own terms. What we have to do is make it easier for each congress member to oppose the leadership on this than it is or them to continue opposing the will of the majority of Americans.
A lot of us believe we are in the midst of a constitutional crisis. We have a White House that ignores subpoenas, rewrites laws, lies to Congress, lies to the public, spies without warrant, detains without charge, tortures, murders, uses illegal weapons, abandons cities to destruction, rigs elections. Et cetera. We could take up the whole night listing the abuses.
Most congress members do not believe we are in a crisis. After all, people still treat them as big shots and offer them piles of cash. And even though Bush and Cheney ignore their subpoenas, they can send letters to the White House that sometimes get printed in newspapers. But quite a few congress members would think they were in a crisis if they cut off the war funding, because Bush and Cheney would simply steal money from the Pentagon to keep the occupation going – illegally,
And it’s always been illegal. It is illegal under the U.N. Charter and our Constitution to invade and occupy another nation, to lie to Congress, to misappropriate funds to begin the the attack before congressional approval, to launch a war without a declaration of war, and to turn a six-week cakewalk into a permanent occupation using bases that were never approved by Congress or publicly discussed. The semblance of legality has been provided by Congress’s check book. If they cut the money off, Bush and Cheney won’t end the occupation. And the worry about funds for withdrawal will look rather comical as Bush manages to find much greater amounts. Congress is now passing a record “defense” bill, so the money will be there.
When Bush keeps the war going, Congress will have two choices. The first is to admit that we now have a king and a bunch of court jesters, rather than a Congress and an executive. The second choice is also the second useful thing that I mentioned Congress can do. It can take out and make use of that portion of the Constitution that reads:
“The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Congress is going to have an opportunity to do so this week when Congressman Dennis Kucinich forces a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on a resolution to take up the impeachment of Vice President Richard B. Cheney. You might as well start at the top.
We need everyone to flood the media and Congress with the demand that Congress support impeachment. You can find out how at http://impeachcheney.org
Congress members have a lot of excuses. One of their favorites is that it would look bad for them to cosponsor a resolution that many of their colleagues will supposedly never support. That excuse goes away this week. They’re no longer deciding whether to bring impeachment up. It is up. They can vote to kill it or to give it a chance. It costs them the same effort either way. They are on record for history either way. They must face their votes in the next elections either way.
There are congress members with form letters they send to their constituents who urge them to sign onto Kucinich’s resolution. They won’t sign on, they say, because they have other priorities, but they’ll keep the public’s concern in mind if the matter ever comes up for a vote. Well, here it comes.
SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you are in the military, you can refuse illegal orders. The rest of us must support those who take such a step. At http://DontAtackIran.org is a letter that Marcy Winograd and Michael Jay of Los Angeles helped write to the military urging disobedience to orders to attack Iran. You can go there and add your name. You can also get a book called “Army of None” and use it to counter recruiting efforts. The Army just had its worst recruiting year since the Vietnam War. That is the one and only reason that there are not more U.S. troops n Iraq.
If you are in government, you can expose crimes and refuse to take part in them. You can follow the example of Ann wright and resign. The rest of us must support those who do.
If you work for a company profiting from war or manufacturing the tools of war, you can (if you can manage it) quit your job. The rest of us have a duty to support people who take such steps. If we had a labor movement worthy of the name, it would be advancing this cause, not pushing bills destined to be vetoed and funding television networks through election campaigns.
If you are a member of an astroturf party front group like Americans Against Escalation in Iraq or Moveon.org, you can push that group to back impeachment. Force every group to take a position on this one – yes or no – for the rule of law or the rule of Cheney.
The ACLU led the charge for impeachment 34 years ago and is now afraid to act. Shame the American Cheney’s Still at Liberty Union into living up to its past. Amnesty International, People for the American Way, these are organizations that now lack the integrity of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild. The NLG yesterday unanimously and enthusiastically passed a resolution supporting the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
Hound these organizations until they step forward. Make them feel it in their bank accounts.
The National Organization for Women used to back impeachment. I saw the president Kim Gandy on election night, and she was still for it. Within a week she flipped. She prevented her board from taking a position, and backed the number one opponent of impeachment in the country, Hillary Clinton. Is it the National Organization for Woman, singular?
Other organizations working on other issues, such as those active this week on global warming, should join with the impeachment movement or admit that they are just pretending for the next year.
If you are part of a local Democratic Party or if you give money to the national Democratic Party, let them know: not another dime until impeachment. This is a crisis, and if we do not make changes, we will have at least 5 more years of the war of terror.
As you know, local and state governments can pass resolutions, and you can lobby them to do so. Local petitions can help, and you can make them part of a national petition at http://afterdowningstreet.org/petition You can also make impeachment an issue in the local elections this week.
Members of the media can contribute to a rebirth of democracy quite simply by doing their jobs.
Lawyers can help defend whistle-blowers.
Artists can communicate the crisis we face.
And there are many things that each and every one of us can do. We can try to influence all of the sorts of people I’ve just mentioned.
We can engage in media activism, pushing for coverage and polling. Last week the second poll ever done on impeaching Cheney was published. The first one was national and found 54 percent in favor. I suspect it’s higher now. The new one was only in Vermont and found 64 percent in favor. Where’s the California poll? Why not commission one? Why not harass pollsters until they do one? See http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/polling
You can also be the media. The best coverage I saw of the October 27th march in LA was not produced by the corporate media. It’s good to hold events like this one, but be sure to videotape and post your events online immediately. There are tons of movies and books now that make for good events followed by discussion. But the best events are either debates (because they bring new people into the room) or events that plan serious actions.
You can also talk to a lot of people if you wear an impeach shirt or even an impeach bush and cheney bracelet: http://afterdowningstreet.org/bracelet
But the most effective things you can do involve a few people getting together and taking serious nonviolent action. If you saw a child drowning, wouldn’t you jump in? Well, our democracy is drowning, and it wouldn’t take much to save it. And you don’t have to go to Washington. Start by visiting your congress member’s local office and demanding a commitment to vote No on any more war funding and a commitment to vote No on tabling impeachment (or Yes on taking impeachment up). Then stand out front with posters that read “Honk to Impeach.” Then sit in their office and read the Constitution loudly and sing and do not leave. Just a few people are needed, but when they’re forced out or taken to jail, have a few more do it the next day. Make it impossible for that office to function for a week. Make sure the media knows why. Make clear that you represent the majority of Americans.
Going to jail is usually painless when it’s for a day or an hour. Pay your fine or go to court, it’s up to you. Ann wright has done it more times than anybody can count anymore. On Friday in Washington Eve Tetaz, a 76-year-old woman was sentenced to 7 days for repeated nonviolent protesting and refusing to pay fines. If she can do that, what can you do?
A very few people, or even one, can also impact national news by creatively disrupting events, as when Desiree Farooz held bloody hands up to Condi, or Ray McGovern questioned Rumsfeld, or Texans on Friday protested Cheney. At http://afterdowningstreet.org click on Activism to find schedules of where big shots will be when.