IN A NATION OF LAWS, USE MUST BE IMPEACHED
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt., June 24, 2003 - "It's not about the sex, it's about the lying."
"We must restore the dignity of the office."
These were some of the refrains we heard from conservatives during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
But lying about a consensual affair between two adults seems pretty inconsequential compared to lying our nation into an unnecessary war that was actively opposed by most of the world; a war that has so far killed nearly 200 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis.
I believe President George W. Bush lied to this nation to send its sons and daughters off to fight and die in the Persian Gulf. To take another popular sound bite from the conservative songbook during President Clinton's impeachment: "Where's the outrage?"
I guess it must be acceptable to consistently and repeatedly lie for months to Congress, to the United Nations and to the American people to commit America to a pre-emptive and unilateral invasion of another nation. The same folks who clucked their tongues over Bill Clinton's lies seem to not have a problem with their guy being less than honest. As far as they're concerned, America conquered Iraq fair and square and that's all that matters.
But if we are, as President John Adams long ago wrote, "a government of laws and not of men," and if, as Presidenbt Gerald Ford said in 1974 upon taking office when President Richard Nixon resigned, "Truth is the glue that holds government together," we have no honest choice but to impeach President Bush.
Truth matters, and it definitely matters when the lives of thousands hang in the balance. And the truth is President Bush and others in his administration misled America and the rest of the world about the extent of the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to the world.
For months, we heard that Iraq definitely possessed weapons of mass destruction, that it had a sizable stockpile of chemical and biological weapons with the means to produce more, that it was capable of delivering these weapons and intended to do so soon, that it was seeking to build nuclear weapons, and that it was cooperating with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to provide them with the means to launch terror attacks on the U.S.
The sum of the Bush administration's case for preemptive war - that Saddam posed an imminent threat to America that had to be dealt with immediately - was repeated often in the days before we invaded Iraq. It turned out to be a lie based on distorted or faked information thsat had already been discredited by the CIA and FBI.
United Nations weapons inspectors found nothing that backed up these false claims in the renewed and extensive round of inspections just before the start of Gulf War II. Since the U.S. capture of Baghdad, a 1,400-member U.S. military search team has visited more than 300 suspected weapons sites. Nothing was found. The 30,000 warheads, 500 tons of chemical weapons, 25,000 liters of anthrax and 38,000 liters of botulism toxin President Bush said Iraq possessed are, if they ever existed, still unaccounted for.
If you decide to invade another nation based on the threat of an imminent attack, your proof better be irrefutable. The Bush administration's proof wasn't. Much of their information came from Iraqi exiles on the U.S. payroll, namely Iraqi National Congress - headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's favored successor to Saddam, Ahmad Chalabi.
When Amrican intelligence agencies couldn't prove that Iraq had WMDs or the means to deploy them, what intelligence there was got distorted, hyped-up or simply faked so it would better the lousy case for war.
The Bush administration didn't even attempt to use the traditional hedges that get used in matters of national security. President Bush flatly stated time and time again that Iraq possessed WMDs and was prepared to use them.
That argument was echoed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He believed that Saddam posed an imminent threat as fervently as President Bush. Maybe Blair should have heeded French President Jacques Chirac, who warned both leaders that there were no WMDs in Iraq and that any invasion would be a violation of international law. This fact - not anti-Americanism - is what kept so many American and British allies from supporting Gulf War II.
The Republicans in Congress continue to do everything in their power to block any sort of honest investigation of manipulation and mishandling of intelligence by the Bush administration. It will be swept under the carpet as surely as have the Bush administration's intelligence failures in the months leading up the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
But we should not allow this to happen. The pattern of negligence and manipulation is clear in both cases and there must be accountability.
John Dean, a Beverly Hills stock broker who once who served as President Nixon's counsel and spent four months in prison for obstruction of justice during the Watergate era, knows a thing or two about abuse of presidential power. In a recent column for FindLaw.com, Dean neatly laid out the case against President Bush.
"To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked," wrote Dean. "Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be 'a high crime' under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony 'to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner for any purpose.'"
Dean noted that when Richard Nixon resigned, he was about to be impeached by the House for misusing the FBI and CIA and that in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, "all presidents are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of presidential power."
The evidence points to this kind of abuse by the Bush administration. It is a con that makes Watergate or the Iran-Contra affair look like petty crimes.
Britain is in an uproar over Tony Blair's unquestioning support of the Bush administration's case for war. Public hearings have already begun, and Blair could be thrown out of office.
In this country, few seem to care that President Bush deliberately deceived the American people into an unnecessary war that has cost scores of young Americans their lives of and squandered tens of billions of dollars. But just last night, backers gave him $4 million for the 2004 campaign.
If truth matters, if we are a nation of laws and not men, President George W. Bush and his administration must face punishment for lying to the American people in his eagerness to start a war.
President Bush must be impeached. All it will take to carry it out is enough Americans demanding a restoration of the dignity and honor of our nation and enough members of Congress with the guts to act.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).