The Conyers-Bybee Love Affair

By David Swanson

There is strong evidence that John Conyers, Patrick Leahy, and most of the rest of us are in love with torture-lawyer Jay Bybee. I’m not talking about sexual love and wouldn’t, because people’s lives are lost to such bread-and-circuses journalism every day. I’m talking deep personal devotion.

Let’s examine the evidence.

1. As head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee committed felonies in exchange for being nominated to a life-time seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Bybee violated the Anti-Torture Statute and the War Crimes Statute by facilitating torture through secret memos purporting to legalize specific criminal acts. Bybee also played a leading role in a conspiracy to violate the UN Charter, the US Constitution, and the War Powers Act by signing a secret memo purporting to give presidents the unrestricted power to launch aggressive wars.

2. The excuses that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Conyers used for not impeaching Bush or Cheney, outlandish and revolting as they may have been, do not apply to a judge who is not president and who is not known to most Americans. Yet Conyers, his committee, and the House of Representatives impeached a judge this year for groping people and have not attempted to impeach Bybee.

3. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has asked Bybee to testify, and Bybee has told the Chairman to go cheney himself. Conyers has not even asked Bybee to appear. Although any committee of Congress has the power to subpoena and to use the Capitol Police to enforce that subpoena, neither Leahy nor Conyers has subpoenaed Bybee.

4. While more than enough of Bybee’s handiwork is publicly available in the form of his death memos, Conyers and Leahy have expressed their intention to do nothing until the Justice Department itself releases its own internal report on the crimes of Bybee and his colleagues. This has resulted in the Justice Department not releasing its report.

5. Conyers and Leahy are not being challenged in this matter by any members of Congress or any activist groups, the whole gang of them and us — each in our own way — deferring to the preference of President Barack Obama to grant all of the worst criminals immunity. But this dynamic won’t stop people from placing the blame on Conyers. He knows that Obama is the messiah, whereas he is just the guy with the responsibility to impeach. Conyers wouldn’t shred what’s left of his oath of office and reputation just to please Obama. Conyers has publicly denounced Obama’s actions on healthcare in the strongest terms.

6. The Department of Justice has proposed to cement in place the power of presidents to tell lawyers to secretly legalize crimes for particular criminals, by investigating for prosecution those who strayed from the illegal policies and granting immunity to those who created them.

7. The consequences of allowing the so-called executive branch to grant itself immunity for its crimes will effectively eliminate the first branch of government from our government, and Leahy and Conyers belong to that branch. The consequences of leaving Bybee in his current office include the possibility of his ruling on the legality of many of Bush and Cheney’s crimes.

8. I’ve only heard two excuses leak out of Conyers’ office. One of them is that the media would attack him for targeting a “conservative” judge if he tried to impeach a judge who tried to legalize aggressive war and torture. Exactly what is conservative about such actions has not been explained. How our republic can survive if Congress continues to take orders from Fox News I’m not sure.

9. The other excuse I’ve heard is that Bybee’s not the worst of the lot, that John Yoo was a worse lawyer, that Bush and Cheney gave the orders. The problem with impeaching those people, however, is that they are out of office. You could and should still impeach them. Going into last year’s election, Conyers promised to impeach Bush after it. Impeaching Bush and Cheney now would send a strong message, expose new information, lay the groundwork for prosecutions, and strip away secret service and pensions while banning them from every again holding public office. I’m all for it, and only focus elsewhere because 98 percent of Americans don’t know it’s possible. But if you’re intent on avoiding impeachments of conservatives or non-sexual criminals, what about subpoenas? Subpoena the lot of them. Start with whoever you deem the most significant. Talking this way to Conyers is like talking to a wall. Why?

10. Many have suggested that Conyers is being blackmailed over scandals involving his wife and other things. But to allow threats to himself to dissuade him from the essential task of preserving the legislative branch of our government would require that he hate his country. I find it easier to imagine that he loves something or someone else.

Since the beginning of the year, already on record supporting Bybee’s impeachment or resignation are: Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Senator Russ Feingold, the New York Times, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Courage Campaign, Progressive Democrats of America, Bruce Fein, Common Cause,, People for the American Way, The World Can’t Wait, ThinkProgress, Crooks and Liars, Digby, Scott Horton, After Downing Street,, Jeremy Scahill, Dave Lindorff, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senator Patrick Leahy, American Freedom Campaign, National Lawyers Guild, John Podesta, MoveOn, Veterans for Peace, National Accountability Network, Code Pink, Velvet Revolution, Bruce Ackerman, the Salt Lake Tribune, and too many others to name. But all have gone silent.

Efforts to impeach Bybee are headquartered at I’m convinced it’s a cause worth imposing on Congress, not just politely asking for. I’m convinced that the restoration of the power of impeachment as a check on the executive branch is much larger than Bybee, and that his impeachment hearings would result in the incarceration of the heads of his crime family: Cheney and Bush. I’m convinced that this is a cause worth pursuing, even if we have to break off a love affair.

David Swanson is the author of the new book “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town:

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