What High Crimes are more Odious?

(extended version of a guest column that appeared on November 5. 2007 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/337917_firstperson05.html)

Thousands of anti-war protesters marched in Seattle last Saturday, including many co-signers of this essay. But can this war be stopped? The anti-war movement must contend not only with the Bush Administration and its loyal Republican supporters but also with moderate Democrats, who seem resigned to keeping American troops in Iraq for at least the near term. The three Democratic front runners for president refuse to promise that they can bring the troops home by 2013. Moreover, this month's Mother Jones has an article saying that leaving Iraq suddenly would likely be disastrous, both for Iraq and for America. Although Al Qaeda wasn't active there five years ago, they are active there now, and if we left suddenly, it says, Al Qaeda, Iran, and other parties hostile to our interests may take over. An article by George Packer in the September 17 issue of the New Yorker says similar things. Closer to home, Retired Major Gen. Paul Eaton, who spoke as a guest at a recent Eastside Democratic dinner in Bellevue, was highly critical of Republican handling of the war but warned against immediate withdrawal.

On the other hand, even supporters of the war aren't claiming that America can actually “win” in Iraq.

At best, a lengthy and debilitating occupation awaits us. Prolonging the war is likely to merely postpone the day of reckoning, with an even greater loss of lives and money. Already our troops are exhausted and understaffed, but Turkey is threatening to attack the Kurds in northern Iraq and the war may spread. Meanwhile, Pakistan is in crisis, oil is over $90 a barrel and President Bush (who just vetoed the SCHIP health insurance program for kids) is asking for another $200 billion for the war. Incredibly, the Administration is even beating the drums for war with Iran and threatening to start World War III.

In short, the Bush administration has made a huge mess, while ignoring the real terrorists responsible for 9/11 and failing to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or the high demand for oil that are the root causes for the war and for terrorism.

For these reasons and more, Congress needs to hold the Administration accountable, by investigative hearings leading to censure or (better yet) impeachment. . The fact that we can't safely leave Iraq is all the more reason to bring them to justice.

Some people argue that pursing accountability would be a distraction from the real things that matter. But Bush, Cheney, and their supporters are the real problem. It's not as if Congress is accomplishing all that much now anyway. Until Bush and Cheney are stifled, things will continue to be bad -- and will get a lot worse if Bush attacks Iran.

Some people argue that the populace has no patience for drawn-out hearings. But according to a recent Reuters/Zogby poll, Bush's approval ratings are 24%; according to polls this summer by American Research Group, 45% of Americans favor impeachment of Bush, and 54% favor impeachment of Cheney. We know of many Democrats who would love to see Bush and Cheney in jail but who believe that pursuing impeachment is a waste of time; we beg to differ. One of the reasons Congress' approval ratings are even lower than Bush's is that Congress hasn't stood up to the Administration. Worldwide, many people would be thrilled if Congress tried to hold Bush and Cheney accountable.

In contrast to Bill Clinton, whose "crime" involved lying about sex, Bush and Cheney are responsible for misleading the country into a disastrous war based on falsehoods; for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and nearly 4000 US soldiers; for displacing several million Iraqis; for promoting torture and rendition; for illegal wiretapping; for signing statements that thwart the will of Congress; for revealing the name of a CIA agent; for politicizing the Justice Department; for denial of fair trial at Guantanamo; for obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame case and in the firing of federal prosecutors; for suppression of inconvenient evidence; for obsessive secrecy; and for gross incompetence and corruption in the management of federal agencies, federal contracts, the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the war, and veterans' care.

Democrats have a clear majority in the House and so impeachment (indictment by the House) is a real possibility. Even if the Senate is unable to convict, investigative hearings would embarrass and weaken the Administration and its supporters. (Some people argue that the Democrats would lose the next election if they pursue impeachment. But the Republican impeachment of Clinton led to the defeat of Gore in 2000.) Most of all, hearings would reveal the truth, reestablish the rule of law, and demonstrate that Americans defend their Constitution and hold criminals accountable.

We have an obligation -- to the Constitution, to the world, to Justice, and to posterity -- to at least try to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes and for their incompetence. People who say "it won't succeed" are engaging in a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What High Crimes are more odious than promoting torture and misleading the country into a disastrous, mismanaged war based on lies? Please, America, bring these men to justice.

Donald A. Smith, Bellevue (ThinkerFeeler@yahoo.com – email me to add your name)

Eric Oemig (State Senator, 45th District)
Marilyn Bode, Kingston
Richard Borkowski, Seattle
Justin Bott, Taylors, SC
Linda Brewster, Port Townsend
Paul Carr, Seattle
Libby Carr, Seattle
Melissa Chasan, Mercer Island
Daniel Decker, Olympia
Dianne J. Diamond, Port Townsend
Darlene Durfee, Port Hadlock
Kevan Hagen, Olympia
Ellen Hanley, Kirkland
Jennie Johnstone, Port Arthur
Sue Lahti, Seattle
Kim Loftness, Shoreline
Kevin McManis, Auburn
Daniel Molnar, Redmond
Allene Rollier Niehaus, Seattle
John Olds, Normandy Park
Richard Osoborn, Renton
Pat Resende, Woodinville
Dr. David R. Schwartz, Bellevue
Maura Sermeno, Mercer Island
Jerry Stockman, Bellevue
Chris Struble, Renton
William A Taylor, Renton
Dave Thomas, Bellevue
Bob Thoms, Seattle
Chris Tombrello, Bellevue
David Vicks, Edmonds
Nancy H. Wagner, Bothell
Sherry Weinberg, Bellevue
Randall Winn, Mercer Island

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