Saturday, October 6, 2007

Robert Parry: Why Not Impeachment?

Why Not Impeachment?

By Robert Parry
October 5, 2007

The disclosure that the Bush administration secretly reestablished a policy of abusing “war on terror” detainees even as it assured Congress and the public that it had mended its ways again raises the question: Why are the Democrats keeping impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney “off the table”?

After the Democratic congressional victory last Nov. 7, Washington Democrats rejected calls for impeachment from rank-and-file Democrats and many other Americans, considering it an extreme step that would derail a bipartisan strategy of winning over Republicans to help bring the Iraq War to an end.

That thinking got a boost on Nov. 8, the day after the election, when President Bush announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the appointment of former CIA Director Robert Gates, who had been a member of the Iraq Study Group and was believed to represent the “realist” wing of the Republican Party.

One Democratic strategist called me that day with a celebratory assertion that “the neocons are dead” and rebuffed my warning that Gates had a troubling history of putting his career ahead of principle, that he was a classic apple-polisher to the powerful.

The Democrats also missed the fact that Rumsfeld submitted his resignation the day before the election – not the day after – along with a memo urging an “accelerated draw-down of U.S. bases” in Iraq from a high of 110, to 10 to 15 by April 2007, and to five by July 2007.

In other words, Rumsfeld’s ouster didn’t signal Bush’s new flexibility on ending the war, as the Democrats hoped, but a repudiation of Rumsfeld for going wobbly on Iraq.

Even when the Rumsfeld memo surfaced in early December, the Democrats ignored it, sticking to their wishful script that the Rumsfeld-Gates switch marked a recognition by Bush that it was time to begin extricating U.S. forces from Iraq.

Those rose-colored glasses got smudged badly when Bush instead announced in January that he was ordering an escalation, sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

But instead of responding with their own escalation – and putting impeachment back “on the table” – the Democrats opted for a strategy of wooing moderate Republicans to mild-mannered legislative protests.

As an opening shot in this Nerf-ball battle, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired off a symbolic resolution to express disapproval of Bush’s “surge,” a meaningless gesture that Republicans kept bottled up for weeks making the Democrats look both feckless and inept.

more at:

How Much Evidence Do they Need

How Much Evidence Do they Need Before Congress Begins to Remove the Cancer on Our Nation?

by Dale Tavris

Whether one believes that the U.S. Congress should proceed directly to the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney for their numerous crimes against the American people and our Constitution, or whether one believes that they should first formally “investigate” the Bush/Cheney crimes, it is important to ask how much evidence is needed before they ought to feel obligated to proceed with impeachment hearings.

A tremendous amount of damning evidence was already publicly available before the Democrats took over Congress this January, and Congressional investigations have turned up additional evidence since then. It seems to me that there is plenty more than enough evidence at this time to proceed with impeachment. In this post I briefly discuss eight areas of enquiry into impeachable offenses, any one of which, in my opinion, has turned up more than enough evidence to proceed with impeachment (Since I didn’t want to set a record for the longest DU post ever, I had to leave a great many impeachable offenses out of this post):

Covering up global warming

Congressional investigations into global warming have shown what we have known at least since NASA’s top climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, went public in January 2006 with claims that the Bush administration was trying to silence him. An account of the investigations concluded:

The Bush administration has consistently misled the public about the threat of global warming, said scientists who testified yesterday before a US House committee hearing into political interference with climate change science…

As one of several examples:

Dr Drew Shindell, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for 12 years, testified that his press releases about the findings of climate change studies had been “delayed, altered and watered down.” He cited one example where a study explained that Antarctica would warm considerably over the next century, based on projections of continued greenhouse gas emissions, which had clear implications for rising sea levels. He said the original press release had been “softened” to the extent that it raised almost no interest and delayed the study’s entry into the wider public discussion regarding the scientific understanding of global warming…

Yet, we see a very familiar pattern emerging with respect to investigations into crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration:

The White House’s refusal to hand over documents requested by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has also raised a recurring issue attending federal investigations into the Bush administration…

Waste and fraud by Bush administration contractors to reconstruct Iraq

The vast scope of waste and fraud perpetrated on Iraq by the Bush/Cheney administration’s no-bid contractors has been known at least since October 2003, when it was reported that billions of dollars allocated to Halliburton went “missing”.

Congressional investigations have documented such problems. As noted by a former intern working for another Bush/Cheney contractor, the Lincoln Group:

Stacks of cash, some filling entire transport crates, are pictured alongside grinning contractors in Iraq. The images have been made public today in a report for a congressional oversight committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., which is investigating financial improprieties in the Iraq war. While American taxpayers see grinning contractors who are well paid by badly regulated contracts, Iraqi citizens see foreigners living in luxurious compounds while they struggle without regular electricity.

What was all this money for?

The Lincoln Group was paid tens of millions of dollars for covertly planting stories – written by American soldiers – in Iraqi newspapers, and the stacks of cash were necessary to pay off newspaper editors, television executives and security guards around Baghdad.

And in testimony reported by the Guardian regarding another $12 billion:

The US flew nearly $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent. The staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve has been graphically laid bare by a US congressional committee….

However, evidence before the committee suggests that senior American officials were unconcerned about the situation because the billions were not US taxpayers' money… They are Iraqi funds…. Bremer's financial adviser, retired Admiral David Oliver, is even more direct… Asked what had happened to the $8.8 billion he replied: "I have no idea. I can't tell you whether or not the money went to the right things or didn't - nor do I actually think it's important."

Doesn’t this just make you hate those ungrateful Iraqis for wanting us out of their country?

Presidential “signing statements”

George Bush’s use of Presidential “signing statements” to avoid enforcing laws that contradict his ideology has been known for a long time. That well known bastion of liberal ideology, the American Bar Association, said in July 2006 that Bush’s use of the signing statements undermine the separation of powers provided in our Constitution. And House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), said regarding his Congressional investigation into this issue:

Bush's widespread use of the signings challenge at least 800 provisions in laws passed while he has been in office… The administration has engaged in these practices under a veil of secrecy… This is a constitutional issue that no self-respecting federal legislature should tolerate.

Grossly negligent medical care provided to veterans at Walter Reed Veterans Hospital

The scandal at Walter Reed Hospital has been investigated by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman tried to:

… ask Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman about a contract to manage the medical center awarded to a company (a Halliburton subsidiary) that had documented troubles fulfilling a government contract to deliver ice to victims of Hurricane Katrina…

According to a letter from Waxman to Weightman posted on the committee's Web site, the chairman believes the Walter Reed contract may have pushed dozens of health care workers to leave jobs at the troubled medical center, which he says in turn threatened the quality of care for hundreds of military personnel receiving treatment there…

Waxman charged that the Army used an unusual process to award a five-year, $120 million contract to manage the center to a company owned by a former executive of Halliburton, the scandal-prone government contractor once operated by Vice President Dick Cheney.

However, once again we see the Bush administration trying to obstruct the investigations:

The Pentagon has refused to allow Weightman to testify. Waxman's staff has confirmed the congressman planned to issue his first subpoena as a committee chairman this session to legally compel Weightman's testimony if the Pentagon did not relent.

And worse yet, Weightman was discharged from his post, the same fate meted out to so many other whistle blowers or potential whistle blowers who had damaging information to report about the Bush administration.

Fired federal prosecutors

Congressional investigation into the apparent political firing of several federal prosecutors is heating up:

Democrats are in an uproar over the firings and are looking into whether the Justice Department was trying to stall ongoing corruption cases involving Republican politicians, particularly when Republican corruption figured into the party’s election losses. Democrats say the dismissals appear to be based on politics since most of the fired prosecutors apparently had good job evaluations.

“This administration either originally hired incompetent attorneys in the first place, or hired competent U.S. attorneys, but incompetently fired them,’’ said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “Given the performance reviews of these U.S. attorneys - proving them to be leaders in prosecuting violent criminals, illegal immigrants and officials who violated the public trust - it appears they were fired for purely political reasons.”

And indeed, the testimony of the prosecutors has served to justify those suspicions:

Six fired U.S. attorneys testified on Capitol Hill yesterday that they had separately been the target of complaints, improper telephone calls and thinly veiled threats from a high-ranking Justice Department official or members of Congress, both before and after they were abruptly removed from their jobs.

In back-to-back hearings in the Senate and House, former U.S. attorney David C. Iglesias of New Mexico and five other former prosecutors recounted specific instances in which some said they felt pressured by Republicans on corruption cases and one said a Justice Department official warned him to keep quiet or face retaliation.

Torture and other abuse of the human rights of Bush administration prisoners

The Bush administrations abuse and torture of its prisoners has been known since shortly after the opening of its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. In Rep. John Conyers’ 2006 investigative report, “The Constitution in Crisis – The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, Cover-ups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance”, Conyers found:

… The Bush administration has not only countenanced but has also paved the way for torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and other violations of international treaties…

The U.S. military’s own investigation, by Major General Antonio Taguba found at Abu Ghraib:

… Numerous instances of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse was perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force… The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements… and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence… The report details… punching, slapping and kicking detainees, rape, use of military dogs to intimidate detainees…

Conyers also goes on to detail descriptions of torture from numerous human rights organizations, including Human Rights First, the ACLU, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross. Conyers’ report continues…

Human Rights First has uncovered at least 16 detainee deaths in Iraq… that the military itself has found to be homicides… Many of those victims were found to have been tortured to death….

The ACLU has used Freedom of Information Act requests to collect thousands of pages of internal documents, confirming the physical and sexual abuse of detainees by military personnel in Iraq and elsewhere…

Amnesty International has reported that acts of torture have not only occurred at detention sites but also continue to be perpetrated against Iraqis during house raids and arrests…

After detailing numerous other atrocities, Conyers’ report then notes that the Bush administration has totally failed to hold any upper level personnel accountable for any of them, and that the Bush Justice Department has condoned torture by creating a definition of torture that is exceptionally restrictive and contrary to international law.

Congressional investigations found that:

… The ACLU released a CIA letter confirming the existence of “a directive signed by President Bush granting the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees.” This confirms a May 2004 e-mail from the FBI’s “On Scene Commander” in Baghdad stating that U.S. military officials in Iraq assured him that a secret presidential Executive Order permitted using extreme interrogation techniques considered illegal by the FBI…

But once again we see the same obstructionist pattern by the Bush regime:

The Justice Department has so far blocked release of the actual document, but a federal judge may force the feds to cough it up. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also demanding to see the document. If this Bush letter does hit the streets, it may be akin to a 1972 memo from Richard Nixon specifying the exact methods of lock-picking the Watergate burglars should use. Bush’s involvement in the torture scandal may be far deeper than Nixon’s involvement in Watergate.

Illegal warrantless wiretapping/spying on American citizens

The Center for Constitutional Rights, among other organizations, has urged in their book, “Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush”, that George Bush be impeached for, among other things:

.... authorizing the National Security Agency and various other agencies within the intelligence community to conduct electronic surveillance outside of the statutes Congress has prescribed as the exclusive means for such surveillance, and to use such information for purposes unknown but unrelated to any lawful function of his office; he has also concealed the existence of this unlawful program of electronic surveillance from Congress, the press, and the public…

This crime should hardly need any investigation at all, given that Bush has publicly admitted to it numerous times. But he claims a good reason for doing it. His excuse has been (like his excuse for every other law that he breaks) that he needs to bypass the request for a warrant in his efforts to spy on American citizens so that he can act quickly enough to catch terrorists. However, given that the current law allows the warrant to be requested retroactively, that explanation makes no sense. Therefore, the only plausible conclusion is that the purpose of much of his spying activities is so unrelated to a legitimate function of government that even the conservative FISA judges wouldn’t approve them.

As explained here:

This program was not intended to catch terrorists - it was intended to give the White House access, invisibly, to information about private citizens which it wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to have… The goals of this program are political. There’s just no other plausible reason to conduct the program this way.

Further evidence for that conclusion is provided by accounts from knowledgeable sources, who note that of the thousands of warrantless wiretaps conducted annually by the Bush administration, fewer than ten have “aroused enough suspicious during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls.”

Lying to the American public about the reasons for war and perpetrating war against international law

Of all the crimes that George Bush and Dick Cheney ought to be prosecuted for, let alone impeached for, dragging our country into war with Iraq by lying to Congress and the American people about the need for that war, heads the top of the list. The evidence that Bush and Cheney lied to the American public and to Congress in order to justify that war is overwhelming, and has been abundantly documented. Many of George Bush’s assertions made to justify the war were known on the basis of publicly available knowledge to be false at the time he made them.

Furthermore, this issue is thoroughly covered in Rep. Conyers’ investigative report, in which he concludes:

The report finds there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people … The Report concludes that a number of these actions amount to prima facie evidence that federal criminal laws have been violated… The Report also concludes that these charges clearly rise to the level of impeachable conduct.

If any additional “investigation” is needed to make the case that Bush and Cheney committed impeachable offenses in lying us into war, it seems that all that should require is a gathering and presentation to the American people of available evidence.

So how much longer should Congress wait?

This administration needs to be impeached and removed from office far more than any other in the history of our country. Bush and Cheney use presidential privileges as if they were their God given right, for their own pleasure and entertainment and accumulation of power and wealth, with no feeling of obligation whatsoever to be held accountable by ordinary American citizens for their actions. Quite simply they believe and act as if they are above the laws of our nation. Even if they were 100% innocent of all the charges described in this post, they should still be impeached for subverting the Separation of Powers mandated in our Constitution by refusing to cooperate with Congressional investigations. The claim of “Executive Privilege” is meant to be reserved for issues that impinge on national security, not for preventing Congress and the American people from knowing what the Executive Branch does in their name.

Glenn Greenwald explains why the U.S. Senate has been so slow to move thus far:

Senators, including large numbers of Democratic Senators, remain petrified of challenging the President in any meaningful way on national security issues generally…

There have been two principal reasons the Bush administration has been able to break the law with impunity and to continue to govern with no accountability – (1) a listless and compliant press which has done very little to reveal and make Americans aware of the true nature and extent of these abuses, and (2) the administration's obsessive maintenance of a wall of secrecy which has concealed its behavior from the public and thus prevented the public (and the media) from really understanding what their Government has been doing.

Most important:

You can't convince Americans of the need to stop abuses until you demonstrate to them in a dramatic and undeniable way that those abuses are being perpetrated and that they are harmful and dangerous… what we urgently need are compelled, subpoena-driven, aggressive hearings designed for maximum revelation and drama. Hearings are able, in a dramatic and television-news-friendly environment, to shed light on how extreme and radical this administration really has been in all of these areas. Democrats in Congress need to realize right now that the administration will not produce or disclose any meaningful evidence unless and until they are truly forced to do so.

The choice is not whether to provoke a constitutional crisis. The real choice is whether to recognize that we have one and to act to end it, or continue to pretend that it does not exist by acquiescing to the President's ongoing abuses and fundamental encroachments into every area… Democrats have to internalize that this administration does not operate like previous ones. No rational person can doubt that they are limitless in their contempt for legal restrictions or notions of checks and balances.

And televised, highly publicized confrontations over the administration's hubris and arrogance and utter contempt for our legal institutions and political traditions is not something to be avoided. It is something we desperately need as a country…

I believe that Greenwald hit the nail on the head. The corporate news media is not on our side, and it never has been. But when people watch hearings on TV they can judge matters for themselves. Even with the corporate news media covering up for Bush and Cheney for six years, various polls show that almost half and in some polls more than half (depending on how the question is worded) of Americans are in favor of impeachment hearings. After a few weeks of TV coverage of hearings into the many crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration, public outrage will mount so high that the American people will demand that they be removed from office. What better way to ensure full public airing of those crimes than to begin impeachment hearings? It seems to me that the evidence against Bush and Cheney is now so overwhelming that not to aggressively pursue impeachment would be a grand dereliction of Congress’s responsibility to the American people.