One of the most common criticisms I get when I discuss the impeachment issue among Democrats and progressives is that I'm impatient and that I'm asking too much of the new Congress--that Democrats need time to get settled into their new role as majority party.
As one person wrote in a comment to my latest essay in Daily Kos, calling for immediate action to end the war and to initiate impeachment proceedings, "…let the subpoenas do their work, the committees get the dirt….These hearings will shatter the Republican Party for years to come. Let the process work."
The problem with this go-slow line of thinking is two-fold.
First of all, it assumes that the Congressional Democrats and especially the party leaders want the process to work. And that is taking a lot for granted.
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Clearly, Congress has the power to force a halt to the war in Iraq. The Democrats in Congress claim that they heard the voters in November and that they want the war wound down and the troops brought home, but then the same people whine that they don’t have the power to cut funding for further war, and that they don't have the power to stop Bush from sending in more troops and expanding the war. This is nonsense! It's not power they lack; it's spine. Increasing troop levels in Iraq by 20,000 or more is increasing the troop numbers by over 15 percent, which certainly qualifies as a "substantial" increase, and means that the War Powers Act is in play. According to that act, Bush must first gain Congressional approval for the escalation, and if he goes ahead without that approval, he is committing an impeachable crime. Clearly too, Congress, which has the power of the purse under the Constitution, can say how it wants that money used. If the House and Senate were to allocate money to the war effort but with the stipulation that it could only be used for purposes of organizing a safe departure from Iraq, that would be all that the Pentagon would be allowed to do with the money.
Democratic leaders have also been quick to say that they will defer to what the generals say is needed, but that is a cop-out of the first order. Bush has just fired his top generals because he didn't like what they were saying, which was that he should start pulling the troops out of Iraq (just as he fired Chief of Staff Gen. Shinseki on the eve of the Iraq invasion for stating honestly that it would take 200-300,000 troops in Iraq to occupy the country).
Hey Democrats! In a democracy, the civil government is supposed to call the shots, not the generals.
It becomes even more ludicrous and facile to say that you’re going to defer to the generals when the president is cherry-picking for promotion only those generals who are sycophants willing to give him what he wants (which is how General David Petraeus and Admiral William Fallon made their bureaucratic way to the top of the toadie ladder).
Besides, the very idea of "giving time" to the new Democratic Congress is obscene, when American troops are dying and getting maimed every day in a doomed project whose only purpose, clearly, is keeping President Bush and his gang of thugs and liars from having to admit to the worst foreign policy disaster in the history of the nation.
It's exactly like the situation during Nixon's presidency, when he just kept the war in Indochina grinding on, expanding it into Cambodia, killing all the while, simply because he didn't want to have to be the president who lost a war.
Bush's goal, clearly, is to run out the clock and hand the job of surrendering in Iraq to whoever it is that succeeds him in 2008.
As for impeachment, the situation is similar. As we learned on December 20--when Bush issued yet another so-called "signing statement," this time claiming the right to have federal authorities monitor and read citizens' first-class mail without obtaining a court order--every day that this president sits in the Oval Office, the Constitution, American civil liberties and the rule of law are at risk.
There is no time for delay.
Nor is there any need for hearings to "get the dirt." The dirt is everywhere in Washington. A federal judge has already declared that Bush is a felon, having deliberately violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). There is no need for a House Impeachment Panel hearing on that issue; the Judiciary Committee could just publish the judge’s ruling and re-label it an Article of Impeachment. Likewise the president’s authorization of and toleration of torture. The US Supreme Court, last June in a case called Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, issued a decision finding that the president had violated the Third Geneva Convention and the U.S. Criminal Code. Again, there is no need for a committee investigation; the Judiciary Committee could just publish the majority opinion of the high court and retitle it an Article of Impeachment.
As for the other impeachment issues--the signing statements, the revocation of habeas corpus, the round-up of foreign residents of the Islamic faith, the abandonment of the citizens of New Orleans, etc., etc.--we need hearings, to be sure, but those hearings should start immediately. There is no legitimate excuse for delay.
Delay is simply a dodge, and increases the chances that this most impeachment-worthy president will run out the clock and leave Washington at the end of his term, with his crimes not just left unpunished, but endorsed through inexcusable Democratic default.
That would be a crime of historic proportions.
Now is the time for all Americans to act, and to demand that our Congressional representatives step up to their responsibility and do the two things that their oaths of office require of them: End this criminal war in Iraq, and impeach this president!
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